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Dubai or Riyadh – Which Is Better To Live?

Dubai or Riyadh - Which Is Better To Live, The Vacation Builder

Middle East countries have become some of the best places where millions of expats around the globe plan to move in. Dubai and Riyadh from this region are certainly grabbing the attention of expats looking for tempting career opportunities and wonderful living conditions.

Are you giving serious thought to signing up for a new job and a new chapter in your life in the Middle East? If yes, then Dubai and Riyadh must be on your list. We are here to provide a detailed debrief and compare Dubai vs Riyadh – to allow you to make a sound and informed decision for your next move in your professional and personal life.

In this article, we are going to explore Dubai and Riyadh based on their location, topography, weather, cost of living, salaries, career opportunities, population density, things to do & see, education, crime rate and transport facility.

CONCLUSION: We still believe Dubai to be a superior choice for foreigners and expatriates due to its more open and truly global culture, more liberal environment, fewer restrictions, and plenty of attractions located within a city. However, at the same time, we understand that shifting to a new country depends on a lot of other personal preferences. So, the final call is yours!


We chose the location to be our starting point for this face-off post. Both Dubai and Riyadh are two of the celebrated expat destinations in the Middle East. Surprisingly these two cities are the most sought-after destinations in their respective countries.

Dubai is a city as well as one of the seven emirates that the UAE is made of. This fabulous city is situated on the eastern coast of the Arabian Gulf. On the other hand, Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia and is positioned in the middle of the country and also in the middle of the greater Arabian Peninsula.

If you are considering the distance between Dubai and Riyadh, then it’s hardly 1000 kilometres by road. Flying time between these two cities will take around 1 hour and 30 minutes from your schedule.  

Dubai or Riyadh - Which Is Better To Live | Location Advantage | The Vacation Builder

Travelling from Dubai or Riyadh to any European destination is really quick and short. It’s the same for a bunch of Asian countries and North African places. But if you are visiting any place in America, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, it will be a long flight for sure.

Both Dubai and Riyadh are well connected to the rest of the world through regular flights but Dubai has one advantage. Dubai beats Riyadh when it comes to the number of flights.




It may sound a bit weird why we are even considering topography as a factor that can influence anyone’s decision to move either to Dubai or to Riyadh, right? Well, topography plays an important role in deciding the weather and a large chunk of expats don’t really enjoy shifting somewhere where the weather is bad.

Both Dubai and Riyadh flaunt a very flat and monotonous topography with very few twists. It would not be wrong to say that these two cities have been developed in the middle of expansive deserts.

While Dubai sits on the eastern coastline of the Arabian Gulf, Riyadh enjoys the highland of Eastern Najd which is the rocky plateau landscape of the Arabian Peninsula.

There is not much difference between the topographic features of these two cities. But Dubai has one advantage – the stunning coastal beaches! Due to the sparkling beaches, your days in Dubai look a little more appealing than in Riyadh.




Dubai or Riyadh - Which Is Better To Live | Weather | The Vacation Builder

While doing your part of the research to find your next home away from the home, you must be worried about what kind of weather conditions you are going to face there. For Dubai and Riyadh, we have the answers.

In Dubai, you are going to enjoy long hours of daylight. They are bright and sunny too. Dubai nights are comparatively cold. In short, the city remains warm all year round with two distinct seasons – summer and winter. August is the hottest and January is the coolest month of the year.

Riyadh weather showcases a typical hot desert climate which is characterized by long and extremely hot summers and very fragile winters. The winter months of December and January are somewhat soothing but it turns unbearably hot during the summer months – May to September. During summers, the temperature crosses over 50 degrees Celsius.

DUBAIHighest Temperature (in °C)Lowest Temperature (in °C)
Monthly Average Maximum and Minimum Temperature in Dubai

RIYADHHighest Temperature (in °C)Lowest Temperature (in °C)
Monthly Average Maximum and Minimum Temperature in Riyadh

If you take a look at the two tables we shared above, it is hard to spot any significance between the average temperatures across a year in Dubai and Riyadh. There is only one catch! Dubai sits just beside the sea and cool breezes offer a relief of sigh to the city dwellers.


Dubai for its cooling sea breezes.

Cost of Living

Dubai or Riyadh - Which Is Better To Live | Cost of Living | The Vacation Builder

Whether it’s Dubai or it’s Riyadh, you are going to enjoy an excellent life because of the outstanding living conditions both these cities offer. To have the life you dreamt of, you have to invest a lot, particularly in Dubai where “Live life king size” is the mantra that everyone wishes to chant.

So, the cost of living comes into the scene and let’s compare where it is costlier to live – Dubai or Riyadh?

Living in Dubai will cost you around AED 19,000 per month while it will reduce to AED 12,300 if you choose to live in Riyadh. Both the costs include the rent. So, the cost of living in Riyadh is somewhat cheaper than in Dubai.

Consumer Prices in Dubai are almost 18% higher than it is in Riyadh. Rent Prices are also ~60% lower in Riyadh. Shopping for your groceries and dining at a restaurant in Riyadh will also cost you ~40% and 11% lesser respectively compared to Dubai.

Both Dubai and Riyadh don’t impose any tax on individual income. This means, your earning doesn’t come with any hidden liability. Therefore, living in Riyadh will allow you to save significantly more compared to living in Dubai.


Riyadh due to the low cost of living.


Dubai or Riyadh - Which Is Better To Live | Salaries | The Vacation Builder

Better lifestyle and better life facilities can only be achieved through higher earnings and we can’t deny that. So, you must earn enough to support your expenses. Both Dubai nor Riyadh don’t impose any income tax on individual earnings. But which city pays better?

Job markets in Dubai and Riyadh are very much diversified. People with different sets of skills can be accommodated in both cities. There’s no doubt that you will be paid there judiciously for your talent and skill sets.

We are gathering the average annual salaries for some of the most sought-after professions in Dubai and Riyadh. All you have to do now is to compare the salaries side by side to understand which city offers better packages for your profession.

Please remember that all these average annual salaries are tax exempted. You bring home the whole amount that you see in the following table.

ProfessionAnnual Salary in DubaiAnnual Salary in Riyadh
Accountant161,000 AED125,300 AED
Civil Engineer212,000 AED182,100 AED
Electrical Engineer222,000 AED186,000 AED
Business Development Manager371,000 AED298,000 AED
Teacher185,000 AED149,000 AED
Administrative Assistant121,000 AED102,000 AED
Graphic Designer148,000 AED114,000 AED
Air Traffic Controller249,000 AED202,000 AED
Mechanic83,000 AED 68,000 AED
HR Manager372,000 AED 278,000 AED
Petroleum Engineer235,000 AED 190,000 AED
Nurse185,000 AED 141,000 AED
Doctor630,000 AED 447,000 AED
Dentist579,000 AED 460,000 AED
Hair Stylist100,000 AED 82,000 AED
Occupational Therapist298,000 AED 241,000 AED
Bar Manager157,000 AED 126,000 AED
Real Estate Agent213,000 AED 163,000 AED
Web Developer214,000 AED 159,000 AED
Average Annual Salaries Offered For Different Professions in Dubai and Riyadh

The numbers from the table indicate that Dubai is well ahead when it comes to salary packages. The delta in compensation varies in some stated professions by as much as 40%. But wait a minute! In the proceedings parts of this article, we have already mentioned that Dubai’s cost of living is also considerably higher compared to Riyadh’s. Therefore, while considering which city to live in (and if you care about your economic welfare), you must factor in not only wages but also expenditures and the overall cost of livings in each of these cities. Finally, the amount you save at the end of the day completely depends on your lifestyle and financial strategy.

The data shown in the table are collected from SalaryExplorer.com which is a trusted website to compare salaries from different countries. Don’t forget that salary is a highly variable factor as it depends on the candidate’s academic qualification, work experience and special skill sets.



Career Opportunities

This age of severe competition in job markets is giving a tough time to job aspirants everywhere in the world. Though Middle East countries are in dire need of more and more skilled people to be employed, it is important to understand which city offers better career opportunities – Dubai or Riyadh?

Both Dubai and Riyadh are grabbing the attention of job seekers because of their tax-free privileges and flourishing economies. Even during a tough time like COVID-19 pandemic, UAE was successful in generating more than 250,000 jobs alone in the retail, telecoms, finance and technology sectors.

For Saudi Arabia, the consequences of the pandemic were significant as well, however, the country maintained the sustainability of the workforce and minimized the impact of COVID-19 thanks to a prompt reaction and thanks to the deployment of mitigating strategies across the both private and public sectors.

The present situation is back to normalcy. Both Dubai and Riyadh accommodate more and more expats in their workforce communities. We are mentioning here the unemployment rates in Dubai and Riyadh over the last couple of years as a layman’s tool to have a gross idea of the job demands.

Unemployment Rate  
2020 (COVID-19 Pandemic Year)5.0%7.45%

So, Dubai’s job scenario is a little better and diversified compared to Riyadh’s.



Things To Do & See

When you pick a city to shift your base, you must be curious about what kind of entertainment scope awaits there for you and your family. Dubai has already earned a stellar reputation as the most popular holiday destination in the Middle East.

We don’t say Riyadh lacks on the entertainment front. The city has also a number of fabulous things to do and enjoy. Let us check out what are the best things to do & see in Dubai and Riyadh.

Best Things To Do & See In Dubai

Dubai or Riyadh - Which Is Better To Live | Things To Do & See In Dubai | Legoland | The Vacation Builder

Best Things To Do & See In Riyadh

Dubai or Riyadh - Which Is Better To Live | Things To Do & See in Riyadh | Edge of the World | The Vacation Builder

Dubai offers more beguiling tourist attraction spots compared to Riyadh and the best part is, that Dubai has something for all age groups.



Crime Rates

Dubai or Riyadh - Which Is Better To Live | Crime Rates | The Vacation Builder

Moving to a new city or new country always comes with safety concerns. We must say this loud that all Middle East cities are way safer than any other global giants like London, New York, Paris, Los Angeles or Sydney.

Dubai shows an astonishingly low Crime Rate Index of 16.4 and an exceptionally high Safety Index of 83.6. Riyadh is not far behind and it also records an impressive Safety Index of 73.2 and a lower Crime Rate Index of 26.8.

Name of the CityCrime IndexSafety Index
Los Angeles50.2049.80
New York47.1952.81
Rio de Janeiro77.6722.33
Crime Rate and Safety Index for Some Major Global Cities

Source: Numbeo.com

We hope that the data furnished in front of you are sufficient to make you realize that Dubai and Riyadh are both very safe places to live in, and both beat many globally renowned metropoles in regard of safety.

As you can see, even though the delta is not significant, overall Dubai is a safer place than Riyadh and the credit goes to its efficiently handled judiciary system and responsive police department.




Planning to move to a new city or a whole together new country with school-going kids or college-goers comes with an extra burden. A burden to secure quality education for them while shifting to a new place. As parents, we can’t bypass this responsibility.

Dubai is the home to a very vibrant and diversified expat community. That’s why the city has developed an inclusive education system that helps students to grow into global citizens of the future.

The City of Dubai is lined with a hoard of world-class educational institutes including some international ones. From kindergarten to university level, Dubai offers exceptionally good education that can compete with global standards.

You will be happy to know that many globally acclaimed colleges and universities have opened their international campuses in Dubai. This is why student life in Dubai is a cross-over between multi-national cultures.

Riyadh also features good quality when it comes to education. But the number of international schools and colleges still can’t outcome the number that Dubai possesses.

Dubai comes with both public and private schooling facilities. Private schooling is certainly quite costly and doesn’t come for free. Public schooling is free to natives of the Emiratis but it’s not free for expats’ children. The same applies in Riyadh.

So, the education scene in Dubai certainly looks more alluring than in Riyadh.



Population Density

Dubai or Riyadh - Which Is Better To Live | Population Density | The Vacation Builder

A highly populated city can never make it to anyone’s list in case they are planning to shift. High population density inevitably decreases the quality of life. Things like accessing healthcare facilities, pollution control, crime control and maintaining civic standards get highly affected by high population.

As per the latest data, the population density in Dubai is 762 per square kilometre whereas Riyadh’s is 4,300 per square kilometre. No wonder why Dubai is so good at maintaining an impeccable urban standard throughout the city.



Public Transport

Dubai or Riyadh - Which Is Better To Live | Public Transport | The Vacation Builder

Here comes the final segment of our post… public transport. Now, we are going to explore how quick and easy it is to get around Dubai and Riyadh.

Dubai showcases a very upgraded as well as integrated public transport network. Getting around the city is not at all cumbersome thanks to the diversified modes of transportation. The city allows commuters to avail of bus, monorail, metro, taxi, water taxi and ferry services to suit every requirement.

We can’t resist the temptation to share how well-maintained are the roads and highways in Dubai. This is why everybody loved to drive on Dubai’s roads. But we also like to mention that Dubai’s traffic can be a test of your patience during peak hours.  

On the other hand, Riyadh is yet to establish a developed transportation system across the city. Buses and taxis are the primary modes of public transportation in the city. There is no metro and many buses are exclusive for labourers leaving taxis as the principal mode of transportation.

So, there should not be an argument if we declare Dubai a clear winner in this section.



Which City Is Better To Live?

As you see, Dubai has dominated almost every section that we took to compare it with Riyadh. It is a clear sign that Dubai is a better place to make a new home compared to Riyadh. We personally feel that Dubai also shows more tolerance to expat community and respect for their cultures. But as we said earlier, taking the final call is up to you. We are sending you tons of good wishes for finding a beautiful home away from home.

We already published many useful face-off articles like Dubai vs USA, Dubai vs LA, Dubai vs Singapore, Dubai vs Canada, Dubai vs Qatar and many more. Check them out if you are interested.

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